Leisure Context, Parental Control, and Resistance to Peer Pressure as Predictors of Adolescent Partying and Substance Use: An Ecological Perspective

By Caldwell, Linda L.; Darling, Nancy | Journal of Leisure Research, First Quarter 1999 | Go to article overview

Leisure Context, Parental Control, and Resistance to Peer Pressure as Predictors of Adolescent Partying and Substance Use: An Ecological Perspective


Caldwell, Linda L., Darling, Nancy, Journal of Leisure Research


Introduction

Social activities are among the most commonly pursued (and most desired) forms of leisure among adolescents (Kleiber, Caldwell, & Shaw, 1993) and occur in both structured and unstructured settings. Hanging out with friends, participating in team sports and other organized activities, and family interactions all provide various types of social experiences. The social context of leisure is important to adolescent development in that it provides opportunities for both differentiation and integration. Often, within the social context, youth learn to manage their own experiences (Silbereisen & Eyferth, 1986) by exerting personal control over their environments and becoming autonomous in their actions. At the same time, they also learn to cooperate and establish important social negotiation skills within their peer group.

The freedom adolescents experience in leisure settings provides a catalyst for experimentation with social roles, behaviors, and ideas, all of which contribute to successful transition into adulthood. This experimentation is essential for healthy development, but also includes behaviors that might be developmentally maladaptive. For example, drinking, illegal drug use, delinquency, and sexual experimentation often occur within the context of social leisure settings (Caldwell & Smith, 1996) and in particular unstructured situations. It is in these unstructured situations in particular where the freedom to experiment is most likely to occur.

Using an ecological model we explored factors that contributed to spending time in a typical adolescent social leisure context, partying, and subsequent substance use. Specifically, we first examined the extent to which various types of social leisure settings (both structured and unstructured), parental monitoring, and peer characteristics (peer substance use and the perceived importance placed on partying) predicted the amount of time that high school adolescents spent partying. We then examined how leisure settings; parental, personal, and peer variables; and time spent partying, predicted substance use. Finally, we asked the question: Are adolescents who are resistant to peer pressure less likely to become involved in substance use even when in a social context where substance use is encouraged?

Although the drive for autonomy may be partly dispositional, the opportunity and support for youth to experience control over their environments and experiences is also influenced by peers and parents. Problem behaviors such as smoking, substance use, and delinquency are often influenced by the extent to which close peers are involved in those same behaviors (Brown, 1990; Fletcher, Darling, & Steinberg, 1995). Although peer influences peak during middle adolescence, adolescents still maintain strong emotional ties to parents (Steinberg, 1990) who continue to maintain authority by setting rules for adolescent behavior both within and outside of the home (Smetana, 1989; Steinberg, 1990). The tensions between developing autonomy, responding to peer pressure, and living up to parental expectations and rules are often played out in social leisure contexts. Peterson (1993) suggested that examining how adults structure or control the leisure activities of adolescents in an attempt to decrease the likelihood of participation in problem behaviors appears to be a productive line of inquiry. Thus, we were interested in adolescent participation in leisure activities not because of any inherent characteristics of the activities themselves, but because they provide a social context in which peer influences and personal characteristics interact, and in which parents often try to exert some control.

Conceptual Model

The theoretical framework provided for this study is based on ecological systems theory (e.g., Bronfenbrenner, 1992, 1995). An ecological perspective is concerned with contexts, which are daily life environments, influenced by the variations and interactions of personal and situational variables, which afford either risk or opportunity (Garbarino, 1992). …

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